New Bedford Regional Airport use up 10 percent in 2012

The number of passengers boarding commercial flights in the city rose by almost 10 percent in 2012, a positive sign for an airport trying to raise its profile, airport manager Thomas Vick said Monday.
Cape Air flights to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket drew 12,172 people to the New Bedford Regional Airport in 2012, Vick said. A total of 11,152 people boarded flights at the city-owned airport in 2011, according to Federal Aviation Administration data.
Overall, the FAA numbers show passenger use holding roughly steady after several years of sharp declines.
In 2004, 19,686 passengers boarded flights there, according to FAA data. By 2009, that number had shrunk to 11,680, rising slightly in 2010 to 12,363.
“We went up; we went down,” Vick said. “I think we’ve hit bottom and we’re starting to slowly come back.”
The city-owned New Bedford airport ranks 328 out of 5,174 total airports in terms of take-offs and 377 out of 545 commercial airports, he said.
“It doesn’t seem like a large number when you compare it to Atlanta or Chicago but it’s very important for this airport going forward to have that positive building block,” he said. “We’re certainly encouraged.”
The airport, with a fiscal 2013 budget of about $675,000, is self-sustaining. Its budget is about the same as in fiscal 2012 but down since 2009, when it stood at about $745,000.
“I’m not going to say we made money (in 2012), but the airport was financially self-sufficient,” Vick said. “That’s something that’s very important. It allows for the city’s tax revenues to go to critical services.”
Vick attributed the increase in passengers to a recovering economy, as well as more focus on customer service and marketing.
The airport recently installed new televisions in the waiting area and has plans to buy rocking chairs and install free wireless, Vick said. Last year, it threw a passenger appreciation day and distributed free hats and stickers.
“It’s kind of the hidden gem of the SouthCoast. It really is such a great, fun, little airport,” said Trish Lorino, the managing director of marketing and public relations for Cape Air, the only airline currently operating at the city’s airport.
In the off-season, Cape Air flies four nine-passenger flights inbound and outbound each day, relying largely on local contractors headed to the islands for renovations for business, Lorino said. In the summer, flight frequency increases.
Cape Air is in the middle of preparing an advertising campaign targeting local customers, Lorino said.
“We really just want to let people know that this airport is in their backyard,” she said. “It’s just such a nice convenience.”
Vick said the airport, which also hosts private aircraft and students from Bridgewater State University’s aviation program, is focused on increasing its Cape Air passengers, not expanding flight offerings.
“I’m very happy with Cape Air,” he said, adding that cargo flights remained a long-term goal. “You don’t have to have large planes to be a successful airport.”
January 29, 2013 12:00 AM
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